A natural disaster can be traumatizing for adults, but it can be even more devastating for young children. As parents, it’s our responsibility to lead by example, especially during stressful times, and preparation is the best way to handle these difficult situations. Here are a few tips to help prepare yourself and your kids for a natural disaster.
- Create a natural disaster kit. Putting together a kit for your family is a good activity to do with children and can be turned into a game. Talk to them about the items they need and use daily. Then, ask them what they’d like to take with them if they have to leave their home. Develop a list and award points for every item your children collect. The Department of Homeland Security has a great resource for what you should include in the kit.
- Emergency checklist for kids. Unlike a disaster kit, which includes essentials like food and water, your child’s emergency checklist will cover comfort items like a special stuffed animal, games and other things that will keep some normalcy in their lives. Young children often want to bring all their toys and a car can only hold so much, so it’s a good idea to narrow their list of comfort items to three or four small items. These are items that you’ll need to be able to quickly collect if you’re evacuating your home. Keep this checklist in an easy to access location.
- Come up with an emergency evacuation plan. An evacuation plan that instructs everyone how to quickly and safely exit the residence is a must if an emergency forces your family to abruptly leave home. If the emergency happens when you aren’t together as a family, make sure your children know where to go and whom to contact. Sometimes another family member might live close by and can come to the meeting location, or a trusted neighbor can help them until you arrive. Be sure that your kids know your mobile number by heart.
- Practice disaster drills. Now that you have a disaster kit, an emergency checklist and an evacuation plan, practice disaster drills. Rehearsing what to do in the event of a natural disaster will comfort your children when a real disaster strikes. Drills can be turned into games, too, which will increase your children’s level of attention and recall. Different natural disasters require different plans, and the Department of Homeland Security has a series of fun games for kids to learn more about them.
Children look to their parents for comfort and how to act in unfamiliar and life-threatening situations like a natural disaster. If you find yourself in one, first, calm yourself and then open a dialogue about what has happened. You might need to address their feelings and concerns. It’s important to also limit their exposure to media, TV and social media during this time.
Additional details about how to help your children prepare and cope for a natural disaster can be found at www.ready.gov/kids. Be proactive about disaster preparedness, as it could make all the difference for your family’s safety, property and peace of mind.